John Klar: Hunting for the Vermont Constitution in two new bills

The latest effort to destroy Vermont culture is underway in Montpelier, in two ill-conceived bills that seek to restructure oversight of Vermont’s fish and wildlife management and ban foot-hold trapping entirely. Neither bill presents legal justification for its goals; both seek to undermine proper wildlife management, and both originate with anti-hunting interests who are ignorant both of hunting and constitutional protections of Vermont traditions, legislating minority partisanship over facts.

Public domain

In Vermont, licensed trappers can trap and sell the fur of red and gray foxes, coyotes, beavers, muskrat, raccoon, bobcats, river otters and more.

S.129, introduced by Brian Campion, D-Bennington, “proposes to transfer the authority to adopt rules for the taking of fish, wildlife, and fur-bearing animals from the Fish and Wildlife Board to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bill would also amend the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Board so that it serves in an advisory capacity to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

The bill does not provide any justification for these changes — a necessary prerequisite for any law. Perhaps Sen. Campion would pass a bill painting the State House blue and orange, without any explanation of why. S.129 would grant authority to the Legislature to appoint eight of 12 members of the board, which is currently informed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. It would also reduce geographical statewide representation of Vermonters, and reduce the current Board’s authority to solely advisory opinions.

S.129 would create an “advisory” board to make nonbinding recommendations to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, after pretending to listen to hunters and wildlife experts. The proposed law provides:

After a public hearing and an opportunity for the public to submit written comments, the Board shall consider whether a proposed rule is designed to maintain the best health, population, and utilization levels of the regulated species and of other necessary or desirable species that are ecologically related to the regulated species and whether the rules are adequately supported by investigation and research conducted by the Department. If the Board, by majority vote, determines that a proposed rule should be revised, it shall submit a written report to the Department setting forth its recommended revisions, and the reasons therefore, within 60 days of its receipt of a proposed rule. The Board shall include with its report the public comments it received.

The legislation is silent as to what this expansion of bureaucracy accomplishes, other than to create a new way to ignore Vermont’s hunters and trappers. This vagueness is a huge problem — the proposed bill does not disclose any purpose at all, let alone a constitutionally justified exercise of government power.

The existing statute cites the Vermont Constitution as authority; that “the fish and wildlife of Vermont are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the citizens of Vermont and shall not be reduced to private ownership.” But what Chapter II, §67 of the Constitution actually says is this:

The inhabitants of this State shall have liberty in seasonable times, to hunt and fowl on the lands they hold, and on other lands not inclosed, and in like manner to fish in boatable and other waters (not private property) under proper regulations, to be made and provided by the General Assembly.

The Legislature appears to have turned this language on its head, and seeks to socialize the fish and deer! Sen. Campion’s bill is constitutionally upside-down — he holds the burden of explaining justification for his dramatic proposed reorganization, which seems designed solely to circumvent the governor’s executive authority to appoint board members who will impartially represent all Vermonters and weigh expert testimony.

state of Vermont

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor

Meanwhile, Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, has offered Vermonters an even more offensive bill, in S.201, which “proposes to prohibit the use of leghold traps to take or attempt to take wildlife. In accordance with 10 V.S.A. §§ 4082 and 4084, this rule is designed to maintain the best health, population, and utilization levels of the regulated species.”

This bill is a farce, boldly advancing ignorant, unconstitutional, minority-supported agitation against Vermonters. Sen. McCormack has previously demonstrated that he either does not comprehend basic constitutional protections, or zealously violates his oath to support them: in S.201, the same Hobson’s choice applies. McCormack has no qualifications to make any finding that banning foot-hold traps “is designed to maintain the best health, etc.” for wildlife — but more, he seeks to avoid all the professional wildlife resources who do. Where is the process here, such as that proposed in S.129, for public comment about foot-hold traps? Why is the language “leghold” even used, when modern traps catch across the pad, and most animals are unharmed? What do the wildlife biologists have to say?

The U.S. government eliminated Native Americans by preventing them from hunting, confining them to reservations to farm, and slaughtering the bison herds. McCormack and others are so confident in their industrial food supplies (where animals are raised and slaughtered under horrific conditions) that they wish to compel all Vermonters to codependency and accompanying comorbidities from diabetes, obesity and cancer. Most Vermonters remember the Great Depression: even white, self-sufficient farmers can have a culture built on hunting and food — the one etched sharply into the Vermont Constitution. Ironically, destroying trapping in Vermont will eventually destroy the national and Canadian trapping industries upon which many Native Tribes still rely for income. McCormack is clearly ignorant of that, too. (All colonizers always are ignorant of the people they subjugate; Dick’s a New Yorker, here to erase Vermont’s culture and liberties.)

Section 4523 of Dick’s new bill would incarcerate Vermonters who used foot-hold traps, for up to 60 days for a first offense — longer than many out-of-state fentanyl dealers receive in the Green Mountains. And does Dick plan to compensate trappers for the unconstitutional taking of traps and equipment from the citizens he is making criminals? Dick McCormack is the criminal: he who would undermine animal management and Vermonters’ liberties in his ideological zeal. As lifelong trapper Bill Huff explains:

Foothold traps, when used by any licensed trapper, are sized, baited and placed in such a manner to catch what is intended, never break any bones, and merely hold the paw. There are no teeth and there are a number of methods used to ensure an unharmed release is possible should an unwanted species accidentally be caught.

Vermont doesn’t need new laws to protect its wildlife: it needs affirmation of old laws created to protect the rights of all Vermonters. Vermont’s Constitution was designed to prevent elitist rulership over hunters and back-to-the-landers by disconnected legislators who don’t realize that looming food inflation is about to crush the nation while they fiddle.

Perhaps when hamburger is $25 per pound, more Vermonters will recall the ways of the Great Depression. Why is it OK in our modern industrial culture for a (really amazing!) woman on a TV reality show (“Alone“) to trap and eat squirrels and rabbits to win a million dollars, yet Vermonters suddenly can’t trap on their own land as they have for generations, and as their Constitution says they will always be able to do? Dick McCormack and other “modernized” Vermonters drive over far more rabbits and other wildlife on their commutes than all Vermont’s hunters and trappers combined in total waste. Trappers and hunters attend to wildlife infinitely more than suburban “consumers” of fast foods and cellophane-wrapped CAFO meats. These bills seek to divorce native Vermonters yet further from self-sufficiency and cultural identity, and compel industrial homogenization.

These bills both reek of the elitist stench described by Bill Huff:

Rather than a thoughtful discussion of facts, their modus operandi seems to be one of misinformation, intimidation, and demonizing law-abiding sportsmen and -women.

When the economy implodes, let Sens. McCormack and Campion eat cake (Twinkies keep a long, long, time). In the interim, let them eat both of these bills — preferably with an apology to their constituents.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2022. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of Public domain and state of Vermont

8 thoughts on “John Klar: Hunting for the Vermont Constitution in two new bills

  1. This is the one time I totally disagree with you, Mr. Klar. Trapping is barbaric and there should be laws against it. I have seen videos of men holding a fox with a noose around its neck, its leg in a trap and another man stomping on its chest to finish him off. Sorry, but you can tell a person’s character by the way he treats an animal.
    I have sat in my vet’s waiting room, looking at a dog that had to get emergency surgery because he got his foot stuck in a trap and hunting dogs attacked him.
    My husband was a hunter, but one thing he didn’t agree with was killing animals if you weren’t going to eat them.
    Now I’m sure everyone is going to go all “Liberal” on me, ripping me apart because I don’t agree with them, but I’m a Republican and am used to it.
    I will never understand why humans are okay with being so cruel to the innocent…it is so unnecessary and makes Republicans look bad.

  2. These are the kind of non caring, clueless people that have ruined the farming numbers through out Vermont. There’s not as many trapping now and will increase problems just like some other states with overregulation have had afterwards

  3. Hear, Hear Mr, Klar ! Thank you ! I suspect Sen. McCormack thinks with his heart. Unfortunately, the brain does not reside there.
    Pat Finnie

  4. Great comments.. This guy is truly clueless. ZERO common sense and completely detached from reality. It’s mind boggling how he stays in office! We need new blood in our legislature.. I’m not optimistic though. All we can do is keep up the fight and hope someday voters see how out of touch these legislators really are.

  5. Please publish this in The Randolph Herald, Valley News, and Vermont Standard newspapers. Dick McCormack has gone against the Vermont hunter, trapper, sportsman and gun owner since moving here from lands afar! Time to protect our outdoor sportsman traditions, our Vermont Constitution and remove this Dick from office!

  6. Just more bleeding heart liberals, knowing nothing about what they are trying to
    propose………………just talking heads for an agenda !!

    Will Vermont ever wake up and send these carpetbaggers packing………..

  7. Known Dick for decades. Sounds about like him trying to pass a bill he knows NOTHING about the subject matter. I guarantee he never talked to one trapper but probably every liberal in Norwich.

Comments are closed.